>If you wore braces as a kid, you may recall feeling as though you suddenly sprouted more teeth than would fit in your mouth. Sometimes, a similar thing can happen with toenails: The growth pattern may change for some reason and the nail may grow wider than before. The result can be a persistent problem with ingrown toenails.
Here’s the good news: Treating ingrown toenails is easy and relatively painless. Now for the bad news: A simple nail infection, if not treated properly, can swiftly lead to further complications. When a sharp edge of a toenail grows into the skin folds at its edge, it results in pain and discomfort, especially if the wound gets infected. This article will offer some great home remedies for treating and preventing ingrown toenails, but first we need to add a few precautions.
If you have diabetes or any other condition that affects circulation, don’t even think of trying to treat a nail infection yourself. In people with poor circulation, any foot wound or infection takes longer to heal. If not properly treated, an injury could worsen quickly and cause other complications; at worst, it could result in amputation. Reduced circulation also affects the foot’s sensitivity to pain, which can delay detection of a minor injury. To complicate matters even more, people with diabetes often have nerve damage in the feet that further limits their ability to sense the pain caused by a worsening wound. So leave your foot doctoring — and even your nail cutting, unless you have your doctor’s okay — to a trained health-care professional. But be sure to clean, dry, and examine your feet every day, and call the doctor at the first sign of a nail or foot problem.
If you do need to seek medical attention, a podiatrist can solve the problem with minor surgery that permanently narrows the nail. After applying a local anesthetic, the doctor removes part of the nail’s side border, as well as some of the cells that line the base of the toenail (this area is known as the matrix). Removing these cells at the root of the nail eliminates the corner of the nail that burrows into the skin.
People without nerve or circulatory problems, however, can usually take care of an ingrown toenail themselves, if they follow the home remedies from experts.
Home Remedy Treatments for Ingrown Toenails
Ingrown toenails can be quite painful, especially if the toenail gets infected. Read on to learn about home remedies to take care of an ingrown toenail, as well as things to definitely not do.
Go soak your toe. To relieve the soreness, soak your foot in a basin of warm, not hot, water mixed with a tablespoon or two of Epsom salts. Soak your toe for five to ten minutes, once or twice a day.
Try a different solution. Some doctors recommend a product called Domeboro Astringent Solution, an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory soak that you can buy without a prescription at most drugstores. Dipping your feet in this solution for 20 to 30 minutes each night should help bring down inflammation so that the nail can grow out naturally.
Apply ointment. If the nail has already broken the skin (or is close to doing so), spread a topical antibiotic dressing, such as Neosporin, on the wound to prevent infection.
Don’t play surgeon. You’re not helping matters by performing bathroom surgery on your toe. You risk giving yourself an infection, since the implements in your medicine cabinet are probably chock full of bacteria and who knows what else. And if the nail has grown in deeply, your skin may already be infected. So see a podiatrist.
Go straight. No more curved toenails! When trimming your toenails, get in the habit of cutting them straight across. If the corners seem too sharp, it’s okay to file them down a bit.
Don’t cut too short. When you stand up, the weight of your body places pressure on your feet. That pressure pushes up the skin in front of the toenail. If you cut a nail too short, it may dig into the skin as it grows. Always trim a nail so it is flush with the front end of your toe.
Wear the right sock. White socks only, please, if the nail has cut into the skin. Dyes used in colored hosiery can run and may leak into the wound. This could cause further complications, especially if you are allergic or sensitive to dyes.
Step into a different shoe. An ingrown toenail may be nature’s way of telling you to go shopping for new shoes that don’t pinch your toes. If you’re a woman, avoid high heels; try a lower heel (about one inch high) to relieve the pressure on your toes. Men and women alike should shop for shoes with a roomier toe.
Get some sandals, too. If the weather allows, wear open-toed sandals to give your ailing toe extra room and allow it to breathe. Put yourself in your toes’ place: If you were sick, would you want to be cooped up all day in a dark, damp, hot room? Healing will be speedier in the open air.
Watch where you walk. While padding around in sandals is a great idea, open-air footwear isn’t suited for all terrains. In particular, avoid wearing sandals in the city, where the sidewalks may be covered with bacteria that could enter your injured toe, or on uneven ground, where an open toe is more vulnerable to bumps and cuts. Wear sandals around your home, but choose shoes with closed toes for urban or cross-country excursions.
Guard your toes. Even while wearing shoes, accidents and mishaps can hurt your toes pretty badly. For instance, drop a bowling ball on your toe and you could lose the nail, which may grow back as an ingrown toenail. If your job poses any danger to your feet, or if you have a habit of dropping things, wear steel-toed shoes.
Don’t stub. Stubbing your toe can produce injuries that cause the nail to thicken or grow inward.
Ignore old wives. There’s an old wives’ tale that says by cutting a V in the top center of the nail, pressure will be relieved. But doctors point out that nails grow from the base of the toe, so this folk treatment makes little sense. Some people with ingrown toenails swear by rubbing coal oil into the affected area, though there’s no medical reason this therapy might help.
Pass on some pedicures. If you intend to have a pedicure, be sure the person who is performing it does not use metallic instruments to remove dead skin; pumice stones are okay. And make sure all of their tools are sterilized before being used on you.
Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
The service is provided as general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor.